Did you know that at the dawn of civilization, blue-dyed cloth was crazy rare? Just about the only people who owned it were ancient Egyptians, who crushed the precious gemstone lapis lazuli to make blue dye.
But that was before India started growing indigo plants. And after that, it didn’t take long before wealthy Greeks and Romans were using it in paint and cosmetics. (Could this have been the very first blue eyeshadow?)
In the fifth century, the Catholic church gave the color a huge media boost by declaring that the Virgin Mary’s robe would from now on be “sacred” blue. Sacré bleu! The color was an instant hit, even though it was still outrageously expensive. Painters especially adored it.
But some went overboard, like Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, who loved the pricey pigment so much that he drove his family into debt using it to paint the likes of The Milkmaid and Girl with a Pearl Earring. You can bet this didn’t sit too well with his domineering mother-in-law.